06/09/2012 02:56 EDT | Updated 08/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia Tory leader calls to scrap MLA pension plan, elect citizen panel

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative leader says the pension plan for provincial politicians needs to be scrapped.

In a pseudo pre-election speech in Halifax on Saturday, Jamie Baillie said his party would appoint an independent panel of citizens to make decisions on pensions and benefits.

"They can design something that they think is fair," said Baillie after addressing the crowd of about 100 people at the Nova Scotia Community College waterfront campus in Dartmouth.

Baillie said the current pensions, which are among the richest in the country, need to be capped.

He said contributions from members of the legislature should be matched by the taxpayers on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

"We put in a dollar, the taxpayer puts in a dollar, and that's it. Whatever that adds up to is what the pension plan would be," said Baillie.

"I'm not taking any chances. No more than dollar-for-dollar."

The Tory leader said the panel would also decide if current politicians get to keep their current pensions.

"Those are all decisions for our panel of citizens to make," said Baillie. "I really believe that common sense of the every day person will prevail when they come to decide all the details."

In December, all three parties have supported a bill to change the plan.

Under the current rules, provincial politicians can earn a pension of five per cent of their annual salary for every year they serve in public office, up to a maximum of 75 per cent after 15 years.

The proposed new accrual rate would be 3.5 per cent over 20 years, which would drop the maximum pension a politician can earn to 70 per cent of his or her salary.

Premier Darrell Dexter's office declined to comment on Saturday.